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Kathryn Underwood

Professor, School of Early Childhood Studies and Dimensions Faculty Chair for the Faculty of Community Services
DepartmentEarly Childhood Studies
OfficeKHS 363-C, Kerr Hall South
Phone416-979-5000, ext. 552519
Areas of ExpertiseInclusive curriculum, teaching and learning; Disability studies in education and childhood; Special education policy and practice; Early years service planning and delivery.

Kathryn Underwood is a Professor in the School of Early Childhood Studies at Toronto Metropolitan University. Through critical disability theory as a starting point, Dr. Underwood investigates how society responds to and constructs childhood in social institutions. Dr. Underwood’s interests are in human rights and education practice, particularly with regard to disability rights and inclusive education. The focus of her research has been on how constructions of disability in education and early childhood program contexts are used to organize children, with particularly interest in intersectional identities of all disabled children. Dr. Underwood has conducted a number of studies that focus on parent viewpoints and the work of families to engage with institutions.

Teaching responsibilities:

  • CLD 445: Inclusion and Consultation
  • CLD 435 Theory and Practice of Family Support
  • DST 503: Rethinking Disability in Education
  • S18: Prevention science and disability studies: Strategies, programs and monitoring (University of Zagreb)

Teaching interests:

  • Disability studies
  • Inclusive early childhood education, care and intervention
  • Curriculum theory and evaluation
  • Social justice in early childhood and education contexts
  • Family support

Research Interests:

  • Disabled children’s childhood studies
  • Early years service system planning and evaluation (esp. Resource Consultation and Family Support)
  • Equity and inclusion for young children and their families


Current Research Projects:


Inclusive Early Childhood Service System Project

Years: 2014-2025

Role: Project Director

Funded by:

  • A partnership between the Corporation of the County of Wellington, District of Timiskaming Social Services Administration Board, City of Hamilton, City of Toronto and Toronto Metropolitan University.
  • Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Partnership Grant #895-2018-1022. 
  • Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Partnership Development Grant #890-2014-0096. 
  • Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Knowledge Synthesis grant #872-2016-0005
  • Development of the project was funded by Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) grant #PIH: 132311


Critical Transitions: Identifying key factors shaping students' elementary, secondary, and post-secondary pathways

Years: 2014-2025

Role: Co-Investigator

Funded by:

  • SSHRC Insight Grant (PI, Dr. Gillian Parekh, York University)


Collaborative and coordinated community-based interventions for promotion of children's social-emotional well-being

Years: 2014-2025

Role: Co-Investigator 

Funded by:

  • SSHRC Partnership Development Grant (PI, Dr. Brenda Poon, UBC)
  • Church, K., Underwood, K. and Vorstermans, J. (2018). Tensions in disabled childhoods [photo exhibit]. Toronto, Canada.

Chapters (last 5 years):

  • Underwood, K., Moreno-Angarita, M., Curran, T., Runswick-Cole, K., & Wertlieb, D. (2020). Theory, ethics and methods: International disabled children’s childhoods. In D. Goodley, K. Runswick-Cole & K. Liddiard (Eds.), Interventions in Disabled Childhood Studies (pp. 65-67). iHuman Press
  • Frankel, E., Underwood, K., & Powell, A. (2020). Early intervention for young children. In I. Brown & M. Percy (Eds.), Developmental disabilities in Ontario (4th ed., pp. 433-455). OADD.
  • Underwood, K., Church, K., & Van Rhijn, T. (2020). Responsible for normal: The contradictory work of families. In S. Winton & G. Parekh (Eds.), Critical perspectives on education policy and schools, families, and communities (pp. 89-106). Information Age Publishing Inc.
  • Underwood. K. (2019). Empathy and rubber sushi: Re-thinking strategies for anti-oppression in early childhood education and care. In S. Jagger (Ed.), Early years education and care in Canada: A historical and philosophical overview (pp. 207-228). Canadian Scholars Press.
  • Underwood, K. (2019). Ein systemisches Verständnis inklusiver Kindheit: Das Projekt, Inclusive Early Childhood Service System (IECSS). In D. Jahr & R. Kruschel (Eds.), Inklusion in Kanada- Internationale Perspektiven auf heterogenitätssensible Bildung (pp. 314-328). Beltz Juventa.
  • Underwood, K., Chan, C., Koller, D., & Valeo, A. (2017). Understanding young children’s capabilities: Approaches to interviews with young children experiencing disability. In B. Kelly & B. Byrne (Eds.), Valuing disabled children and young people: Research, policy, and practice (pp. 72-89). Routledge
  • Snoddon, K., & Underwood, K. (2018). A social relational model of Deaf childhood in action. In T. Curran, K. Liddiard, & K. Runswick-Cole (Eds.), The Palgrave handbook of disabled children's childhood studies (pp. 85-100). Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Frankel, E. Underwood, K., & Goldstein, P. (2017). Principles and practices of early intervention. In M. L. Wehmeyer, I. Brown, M. Percy, K. Shogren & A. Fung (Eds.), A comprehensive guide to intellectual and developmental disabilities (2nd ed., pp. 495-508). Brookes Publishing.

Articles in referred journals (last 5 years):

Other articles and policy submissions (last five years):

  • Adjunct Faculty, York University, Faculty of Graduate Studies (2021-2023)
  • Visiting Scholar, Massey College, 2020/2021
  • Alan Shepard Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Award, 2019
  • Scholarly, Research and Creative Activity Award, Faculty of Community Services, 2012